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The SAP Interface Repository Now Offers Developers 2,000+ mySAP.com XML Interfaces

by Anton Deimel | SAPinsider

October 1, 2000

by Anton Deimel, SAP AG SAPinsider - 2000 (Volume 1), October (Issue 2)
 
With mySAP.com, SAP encourages B2B and Collaborative Business (c-Business) Scenarios, which use the Internet to integrate business processes between different application systems. Along with the classic SAP components, SAP now also offers a multitude of mySAP.com application components. This means, of course, that there are now several thousand interfaces for the various application systems or components. As you move to XML-based messaging and other Web-enabled applications, each of these interfaces - no matter what the application system or components - will need to conform to common Web standards such as XML.

With mySAP.com, SAP encourages B2B and Collaborative Business (c-Business) Scenarios, which use the Internet to integrate business processes between different application systems. Along with the classic SAP components, SAP now also offers a multitude of mySAP.com application components. This means, of course, that there are now several thousand interfaces for the various application systems or components. As you move to XML-based messaging and other Web-enabled applications, each of these interfaces - no matter what the application system or components - will need to conform to common Web standards such as XML.

     With this in mind, SAP has developed the SAP Interface Repository (SAP IFR), an XML-based resource that is part of the SAP Internet-Business Framework. SAP customers can access the IFR directly at http://ifr.sap.com. All mySAP.com application developers are using the SAP IFR as a central location to publish standard SAP business interfaces worldwide. The SAP IFR provides a predefined infrastructure for converting these standard SAP business interfaces into a suitable XML format that can then be used by Collaborative Business Scenarios. The SAP IFR is structured to provide you with simpler access to these Web-compatible, standard SAP interfaces using Web browser technology.

Business and Technical Benefits of the SAP Interface Repository

The Interface Repository contains more than 2,000 proven mySAP.com interfaces. Each interface is displayed in a consistent way, regardless of its interface implementation (RFC, IDoc, or BAPI). The IFR publishes the business interfaces as XML schemas in a uniform format that conforms to W3C standards. These XML templates and schemas can be used in the transport and processing of XML documents. Figure 1 provides an example of an XML schema for accessing status information from a customer sales order from SAP Logistics (SAP LO), Release 4.6C.

Figure 1 XML Schema from the IFR: Status of a Customer Sales Order

     In addition to displaying the XML schemas and templates, the IFR:

  • Allows you to download the XML schemas of the interfaces for operational use: one schema for inbound parameters (call) and another schema for outbound parameters (response). You can download a particular XML interface schema and generate program stubs, if your specific development environment supports this. n Provides documentation for each interface.
  • Provides URLs to reference each interface description (see Figure 1). These URLs, for example, are used by SAP c-Business Scenario documents to link directly to the necessary interface.
  • Enhances ALE for processing incoming and outgoing messages in XML format using the SAP Business Connector.

     The aim of the IFR is twofold: on the business level, to integrate common, available SAP business functions with the Web, and, on the technical level, to smooth integration using established Web standards.

     The next sections provide details on what the IFR contains and how it works with other elements of the Internet-Business Framework to use accurate, working, standardized interfaces for collaborative business.

Sources and Contents of the IFR

In the SAP Interface Repository, all released and standardized external interfaces are included as XML schemas and XML templates for all mySAP.com application components. These SAP components are available from Release 3.1i onward as well as for industry-specific and New Dimension application components (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 Interface Description for Display Sales Order and Information

     The interfaces are extracted from different source systems and repositories. They are stored in the SAP IFR and are listed by component assignment and release (see Figure 3). In this way, the SAP IFR provides an overview of all versions of the interface.

Figure 3 Interface in the IFR Organized by Component and Release

     The interfaces that the IFR presents are BAPIs, IDocs, and selected RFCs (remote function calls). This means that all the standard interfaces officially supported by SAP can be organized in one general repository.

Figure 4 Business Objects for the Sales Area of SAP LO

     Most of the content in the Interface Repository originates from the Business Object Repository. There are approximately 2,000 BAPIs in the IFR, all structured according to Business Objects, as shown in Figure 4, and organized according to mySAP.com application components. The remaining content is made up of approximately 250 IDocs and a similar number of RFCs. The RFCs are, for the most part, the ones used in certified scenarios.

How XML Interfaces Fit into Collaborative Business Scenarios

The IFR offers access to all relevant interface information via Web browser technology. In SAP c-Business Scenarios, the XML messaging allows your SAP system to communicate with other systems, including non-SAP systems. Figure 5 shows how the Interface Repository fits into a system architecture that will handle these exchanges. The SAP Interface Repository is just one element of this architecture, which includes:

  • Your SAP system
  • SAP Business Connector
  • Your business partner's SAP or non-SAP system
  • ALE

     The individual interface descriptions in the IFR can be accessed by stable, canonically built URLs. This means you can download XML schemas and documentation using these URLs, or you can use the URL to refer from the scenario documentation to the documentation of the relevant interface. Once you have downloaded the XML template, you can use it to build the message that will be sent to the SAP Business Connector.

Figure 5 A System Architecture for SAP c-Business Scenarios

SAP Business Connector

Any XML message that corresponds to stored XML schemas and XML templates in the SAP IFR is operational, and can be used with the help of the SAP Business Connector (SAP BC), a program available free of charge for SAP customers.¹ These XML messages can be sent directly to the SAP BC, which translates the XML request into the relevant SAP internal call. In the same way, the SAP BC converts documents sent from the SAP system back into XML format.

ALE Services

The ALE programming model, already widely used for distributed applications, is enhanced by XML- based incoming and outgoing processing (see Figure 5). Together with the SAP Business Connector, the ALE services facilitate XML messaging with safe and convenient processing of incoming and outgoing messages. With IFR and SAP PC, all previous ALE services will still be available, including distribution of Business Objects via the ALE distribution model, receiver determination, error handling with connected SAP Business Workflow, and monitoring.

More Information for Customers and Partners

General information and services regarding the SAP Interface Repository can be found by visiting the public IFR Web site at http://ifr.sap.com.

     Along with these new developments for customers, the partner certification program for interfaces has also been enhanced. The majority of existing certifiable integration scenarios can now also be certified for connection using Web technologies such as XML, HTTP, and HTTPS. For more information on partner certification for interfaces, contact SAP by e-mail at partner@sap.com.


¹ The SAP BC supports R/3 Release 3.1G and onward. An SAP BC update that supports all interface definitions in the IFR is available as of June 2000. To download the Business Connector, visit the Service Marketplace at http://service.sap.com/connectors.
Anton Deimel is the Development Manager for the Internet Business Framework. He joined SAP in 1993 as an HR developer. Since 1996, he has been responsible for areas including the BAPI concept and cross-application coordination.

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